Iran Election Guide

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The Latest from Iran (29 September): A Billion-Dollar Bank Fraud Takes Over

See also Iran Video Feature: Ahmadinejad, Arab Spring, and the Future of the Regime
Iran Propaganda Special: What's Wrong with this Photo of the Mighty Iranian Navy?
Iran Media Snapshot: Reuters Panics, "The Iranians Are Coming (to the Gulf of Mexico)!"
The Latest from Iran (28 September): And Now to the Real News....

1655 GMT: Bank Fraud Watch. In the latest incarnation of "Don't Blame Me", Iran's Inspector General Mostafa Pourmohammadi has declared that his office knew about the $2,6 billion bank fraud and told the Central Bank. He claimed that the fraudsters failed to launch an "Aria Bank" for their embezzled funds and, with their failure, their crimes became evident.

1635 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Mohsen Armin, a former Deputy Speaker of Parliament, has been sentenced to six years in prison.

1625 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. In another sign of the fragile political atmosphere, an unexpected fuss has arisen over an aspect of President Ahamdinejad's trip to New York.

Earlier this week, some Iranian media claimed that Ahmadinejad was accompanied not only by his wife but by other family members, including his daughter and son-in-law.

We thought the claim was so trivial that we did not post a note in the LiveBlog. Clearly, however, the President's office is taking it more seriously: it has put out a statement denying that family members were with Ahmadinejad in the US.

1615 GMT: Writing for Tehran Bureau, Ali Reza Eshraghi offers a useful introduction to the 2012 Parliamentary elections, including a look at the position of the reformists and the tensions between President Ahmadinejad's camp and other conservative/principlist factions.

1605 GMT: The Battle Within. Another jab at the President from a well-placed official --- Ali Saeedi, the Supreme Leader's representative to the Revolutionary Guards, has declared, "We should not depend on weak persons as the Revolution's ship sails with holes."

1555 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Rah-e Sabz has published a list of the more than 100 political prisoners who were granted amnesty by the Supreme Leader at the end of Ramadan in August.

1335 GMT: Justice and Religion Watch. The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran reports that Youcef Naderkhani, a Christian pastor charged with apostasy, refused a judge's requests for "repentance" on Wednesday.

Youcef Naderkhani’s lawyer, Mohammd Ali Dadkhah, expressed hope that the court would eventually rule for his client’s innocence, but activists fear the re-imposition of a death sentence.

Naderkhani, 32, who converted to Christianity at the age of 19, was condemned to death for apostasy, a sentence upheld in August 2010 but overturned in June, pending his repentance.

1325 GMT: Peyke Iran, citing Fars, claims this striking declaration from President Ahmadinejad to a radio & TV union meeting: all prophets were Muslims, and there is no such thing as Christianity or Judaism.

Meanwhile, on what may be a more serious front, the head of the judiciary, Sadegh Larijani, has knocked back Ahmadinejad's proclamation of a "red line" against prosecution of his Cabinet and advisors: "Red lines declared by some officials are a delusion, there is no such thing."

1315 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch (Press Edition). Reporters Without Borders has condemend a new wave of arrests of Iranian journalists between 1 August and 27 September, including the detentions of Hamid Moazeni, Ali Dini Torkamani, Hadi Ahmadi, Mehrdad Sarjoui, Amir Mehdi Alamehzadeh, Ebrahim Rashidi, and Faranak Farid, as well as several reporters seized amidst a regime crackdown on the Gonabadi Dervish sect of Sufi Islam.

0945 GMT: The US Hikers. Masoud Shafiee State-appointed lawyer for Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, criticsed his clients when the two freed Americans spoke on their return to New York of their imprisonment and abuses in their Iranian prison. That, however, did not spare him the attention of Iranian authorities:

The Iranian attorney for two American hikers released last week said Thursday he was briefly detained by security forces following a raid on his home.

Masoud Shafiee told CNN that security forces searched his apartment on Tuesday and took him to Evin Prison in Tehran for questioning....

He said security forces seized his files, including those regarding the case of Fattal and Bauer, and his computer's hard drive.

0705 GMT: Cartoon of the Day. There were more than a few chuckles yesterday at the black comedy of Al Qa'eda, in its English-language magazine, criticising President Ahmadinejad for his implication that Washington arranged the attacks of 11 September 2001 to lay the foundations for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: "The Iranian government has professed on the tongue of its president Ahmadinejad that it does not believe that al Qaeda was behind 9/11 but rather, the U.S. government. So we may ask the question: why would Iran ascribe to such a ridiculous belief that stands in the face of all logic and evidence?".

Let's hand over to Nikahang Kowsar to illustrate the story, with Al Qa'eda shaking the Iranian President, "Idiot! Must we blast your mini-tower before you accept that it was us who destroyed them?"

0656 GMT: We Are Coming to Get You Watch. Sharp-eyed readers will have noted our scepticism yesterday about the public-relations campaign of Iran's military that it was going to flex naval muscles just off the US coast. Looks like we are not alone....

White House spokesman Jay Carney dismissed the idea in a one-sentence reply to a reporter's question: "We don't take these statements seriously, given that they do not reflect at all Iran's naval capabilities."

John Rosemond of Jane's Defense Weekly, speaking on VOA Persian, also has doubts around Iranian warships reaching the Gulf of Mexico.

0655 GMT: A Facebook Tribute. An EA readers directs us to this Facebook page "honouring" Ayatollah Jannati, the head of the Guardian Council: "Jannati, Keeper of Dinosaurs".

0645 GMT: Energy Watch. We have had reports from sources inside Iran that many people are responding to rising energy costs, after subsidy cuts, by not paying their bills --- some of them, continuing an Iranian tradition, pin the bills up at sites like Imam Khomeini's mausoleum.

Now a spokesman for Parliament's Energy Commission gives us confirmation: 1.6 million Iranians have not paid their latest charges.

0633 GMT: Media Watch. An EA reader points us to a website, Iran Media Program, which monitors developments across the airwaves, on screen, and in cyber-space. A latest round-up includes "Cyberattack on 3 IRIB channels; Iran blocks Tor temporarily; BBC Persian jammed during documentary about Supreme Leader".

0630 GMT: At the Movies. The Ministry of Culture, trying to justify this month's arrest of six filmmakers on the pretext that they worked with BBC Persian, has declared, "The filmmaker's criticism is proper," but it should be not be expressed through documentary on foreign outlets.

0625 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Radio Zamaneh carries an English-language report on the 11-year sentence handed down to Narges Mohammadi, highlighting the defiance of the women's rights and legal activist: “When I am sentenced to 11 years for the charge of struggling for peace and human rights, even 100 years in prison will not dissuade me from doing my duty for society, humanity and freedom of thought and speech. We have faith in our goal, which is the realization of all human rights in Iran, and we will continue to promote this aim through peaceful means and not through security activities.”

0525 GMT: It is less than four days since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad returned from his roadshow at the United Nations, and already any Presidential success has been overtaken inside Iran. The country is now engulfed in the $2.6 billion fraud which not only claimed the jobs of the directors of two of Iran's largest banks but now has led to an extraordinary series of allegations.

Yesterday Mohammad Jahromi, the dismissed head of Bank Saderat, claimed that his counterpart at Bank Melli, Mahmoud Reza Khavari --- who supposedly resigned before he could be fired --- had fled to Canada, with the assistance of senior Iranian officials. 

This morning Iranian authorities are hitting back at Jahromi, with "a source" telling Ayande News that some officials opposed the managing director's appointment and that Jahromi's inspectors visited the Khuzestan branch of Bank Saderat --- one of the leading alleged locations of the fraud --- on 32 occasions but never found any evidence of embezzlement.

Ebtekar has a beleaguered-looking Sadegh Larijani, head of Iran's judiciary, across its front page and says 100 people have been summoned for questioning in the case.

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